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Density Will Never Die

Updated: Nov 14, 2023

We should take a lesson from outer space and apply it to our cities

When humans start living on the final frontier, it’s not difficult to imagine how living together will be essential. It would be a waste of time, energy, and resources to settle space any other way.

How will we build our communities in space? The key to the success of our cities on Earth is the same as in space. Density.

Top 3 Locations For Us To Live In Outer Space

Living on another planet will present a variety of challenges: gravity, atmosphere, daylight, temperature, and radiation. There are 3 common ideas when considering the location of our first outer space city.

The Moon

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This plan by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill envisions the site at the rim of Shackleton Crater in the south polar region so that the village can receive almost total sunlight leveraging the sun for energy creation.

The Moon Village will be built using a series of modular structures interconnected to one another to provide an easily navigated community, with life support infrastructure redundancies.

Modules are designed to be interconnected, enabling seamless mobility throughout the settlement.


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Mars City Design hosts a design challenge every year. The 2017 winner proposed a series of domes that would, “provide open, public spaces containing plants and abundant water, which would be harvested from the northern plains of Mars.”

The 2019 winner (pictured above), also a group from MIT, proposed a series of domes, also called villages, that would eventually be connected by tunnels. The creation of a central dome would contain a central park, university, and hospital.

The villages would be built to, “remind the neighborhood residents of their hometowns and features a pizzeria and a clothes boutique.”

Space Colony

Image credit: NASA Ames Research Center / Don Davis

Humans have a little bit of experience with space colonies. The International Space Station has been in low earth orbit since 1998. And we’ve learned quite a bit. There are a couple of advantages when moving to space without picking another planet.

Complete access to the sun makes solar energy an easy choice to power the colony. As shown in the image above, centripetal force would allow us to easily replicate Earth’s gravity.

Common Themes From Space City Concepts


Use what you’ve got. The best way to get around space cities is to walk (maybe float?). In order to make that practical, everything needs to be close to everything else.


Density isn’t just practical for getting around. It makes infrastructure costs significantly less.

Better Together

Humans in space have better odds together than we do apart. There’s plenty of science fiction with the main character alone in space. As humans, we need that connection to others.

Applied At Home

Pedestrians first

“Life takes place on foot.” — Jan Gehl

One of the first big milestones in a person’s life is their first steps. One of the biggest milestones in the space race was the first steps onto the moon.

Walkability makes a community accessible to all. Mothers, kids, seniors, and everyone in between.

“If you can only access a social scene by car, it means you’re also managed by invitation. With no pedestrian culture, there are no opportunities for chance encounters.” — Jeff Speck, Walkable City

Walkability also enables opportunities for chance encounters. Increase those chance encounters builds community happiness and supports local businesses.

Don’t demonize density

“Cities are the absence of physical space between people and buildings.” — Ed Glaeser

It’s not a bad thing that we’re closer to one another.

First, we need density. Then we need intensity. We’re talking about buildings. We’re talking about people and how we can increase the frequency of social and economic encounters.

Better Together

Most ideas and breakthroughs in industry and technology took place in cities. Urban density creates a sort of collaborative brilliance.

Density is good for public health. People walk and bike more. Faster response times in case of an emergency. Mass transit becomes more effective and more available.

When we’re together, we get a higher return on investment for our infrastructure. That higher rate of returns equals better bridges, pipes, and roads. Infrastructure costs decrease as density increases.

Final Thoughts

As we consider space exploration, density will be an essential piece of the equation. As we continue to live here on Earth, we need to take advantage of how we can build smart density.

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